what does it mean to be strong?

I have been doing yoga on and off for over 2 years now. I was forced to go to my first yoga class and had no intention of signing up for regular classes because I was only doing it to please a friend. I came out feeling light as a feather and I knew then that I was hooked.

Back in Pakistan, in my city, yoga was far from popular. The common perception was that it’s a Hindu practice with lots of Hindu chants and “immodest” postures. How can one do those in a class and what benefit could possibly come out of it even if you took the recitation of Hindu scriptures out. As far as the meditation was concerned, people would often assume that saying namaz/salah is the same as meditation so if you can do namaz five times a day what’s the need for a meditation class? This kind of reasoning is not hard to come by in Pakistan as we are quite fond of passing judgements on things we dont know enough about.

A few yoga classes that were being offered in my city were mostly frequented by people who had no concept of physical fitness all their lives. Now in their 50s, diagnosed with multiple health issues their only resort is to do a few breathing exercises and stretch a little to feel better about their bodies. You can imagine how a twenty something would feel like coming out of a class with these oldies. I went to one of these classes;   I was going through a really tough patch in my life, and was too depressed to even notice people around me. It turned out to be a really good thing for me; the yoga teacher seemed to be a youngish, well-read person. He would recite very thought-provoking pieces of poetry during the meditation session so I liked listening to him. But what appealed the most to me was his dedication – I could tell right away that he wasn’t one of those pseudo yogis minting money. What he was teaching was what what he believed in with all his heart and that’s why it was effective. That’s why I would wake up early every Sunday morning to go to his class.

Life got in the way eventually. I was unemployed and didn’t have money to pay for the classes anymore so I stopped for a few months. I got a chance to try yoga again after moving to Amsterdam. A girl in my dorm raved about this yoga studio she used to go to so I decided to check it out. Not only did I get hooked again, I felt like I had discovered a new world that I didn’t know existed. I learnt a little about the philosophy of yoga and experienced the variety of styles that exist. That yoga studio became my happy place.

I have moved several times since and miss going to a yoga studio and having a fixed schedule for it but I have also realized that yoga means a lot more to me. The best thing about it is that it is so accessible I can do it anywhere anytime. For the past few months I have been trying to make yoga into a consistent daily practice. I have watched endless amount of videos to make sure I get the postures and alignments right. I am still learning and struggling. Every time I get a posture or alignment wrong I realize how much of it is about spiritual and emotional endurance. Every single time I am forced to reflect on my thoughts and my way of being so I can bring the right mindset to my mat and most importantly, to keep it with me after leaving the mat. Afterall, that’s the read purpose of yoga.

I have been practicing ashtanga yoga lately. I couldn’t even get through the half primary series of it the first time I tried it. I don’t know what made me go back to it again but I think it has become my favorite style of yoga.  While it is a bit too physically demanding for me sometimes, it also makes me feel the best. Sometimes I get really bogged down when I goto an ashtanga class and start huffing and puffing halfway though it. I have to remind myself that it’s not about the postures, it’s not about physical flexibility or muscular strength. It’s all about perseverance. In life. Not just on the mat. It is about being humble enough to put in the effort everyday. Just doing my bit every day without judgement and believing that everything else will come with time.

In order to overcome my fear and my judgment, I am signing up for a 4 day yoga workshop at the end of this month. I am both excited and nervous. Excited because I am going to learn so much. Nervous because I don’t know if I am ready for it yet. I don’t know if I’ll be able to make it through all the sessions. What if my shoulders give way? What if I am not able to lift myself into a handstand like everyone else? What if I make a fool of myself in front of everybody? But then again, does true strength really reside in our body?


    1. That’s great Za! Keep doing that. Yoga has so many benefits. The more you do it, the more you discover. Personally, I think yoga and namaz are two very different things because you do them for different reasons. One is a symbol of worship, the other is a journey of self-awareness. I hope you’re able to inspire people in your community. All the best 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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